Posted on Leave a comment

Too close for comfort

ATTENTION
ATTENTION

It escaped my attention somewhat.

Now there’s a leading statement if ever there was one. “What? something vitally important escaped your attention? What was it? do tell” OR…”what? your attention escaped?” Even with some cleverly managed punctuation, actually its both. My attention certainly did escape for a while, last seen roaming the Sussex countryside, and in doing so, several things escaped my attention. A sort of online ouroboros concentration loop.

Its all to do with a particularly nasty case of sciatica. I’m not angling for sympathy here, after nearly 4 weeks I’m over the worst and have finally been able to stop dosing myself up on various combos of painkillers. But it was the aforementioned painkillers which did for my attention.

It seems that during this period (which we shall call my “high” period) we bought lots of lovely antiques, did a few fairs, sold a few lovely antiques and woah hang on…only three weeks until we hit our first stand fitted fair of the year!!! (This is what escaped my attention while my attention was otherwise distracted) but I haven’t broken any clocks yet, or slopped French Polish on the carpet (don’t tell business partner) or even stood on any valuable Victorian ceramics.

Not long now
Not long now

It also seems that over a pint or two of scotch whiskey, we agreed to do a few more stand fitted fairs this year than planned AND ramp up our smaller fairs. We need to move house for myriad and complicated reasons and we’re not going to do it on our current “salary” (for anyone who still thinks self-employment is an easy option, you could not be more wrong)

So in my usual, rather round-a-bout way I have used this entire soliloquy to tell you, the wonderful buying public that to give us some chance of respite and comfort from these too close fairs, we’re having to close our Etsy store on the 10th April.

Defintite. For good. Finito. Nada. Enchilada.

Bye-bye baby
Bye-bye baby

Its sad for us because we invested a lot financially, emotionally and physically into it but we simply do not have the time to keep it curated.

There will be more items listed on this site from time to time, which can be purchased directly so worth keeping eyes peeled and ears pinned to the internet AND in the meantime, you lucky, lucky people you can get 10% off anything still listed on Etsy with the checkout code CLOSE10

Our social media will be changing too with more fun and fewer links (I’m so distracted I nearly wrote LESS links there) so you are still welcome to join us and keep up to date with our fair diaries, information, how to’s and other snippets of antique goodness.

Clever punctuation?
Clever punctuation?

If on your travels you spot my attention span, please bring it to a fair or follow one of the links below where a generous rewar………oh look, a butterfly.

Twitter        Facebook       Pinterest       Instagram

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Behind the Rickety Table…or Tips for Surviving Antiques Fairs…Part 2

Have to be paid somehow
Have to be paid somehow

Yesterday’s post (which it is recommended to read first) took a sideways look at some of the errors made from behind the counter and I’m sure regular visitors to antique fairs will recognise some of the despicable behaviour mentioned. Today though we turn the tables (sic). Regular sellers will spend many frustrated moments lamenting these traits – but maybe the aforementioned “regular visitors” are not so aware what a looooong day said traits can make.

BUYERS.

Most traders are there to make a living, even the hobbyists always have the advantage of a bit of beer money. For us and many like us however, it is how we pay the bills, eat, put fuel in the car and occasionally have pest control remove the rodents from our beards.

Its a livelihood like any other shop except we are not bound by bricks and mortar – and the average customer (no, not you madam, you’re perfect) would, and this is a constant, treat us very differently if we were. BUT, because we are often found loitering behind rickety tables in leisure centres, we are often only given the same respect as our stubble-shrews.

Taken around 6.00 a.m.
Taken around 6.00 a.m.

On fair days traders get up at 5 a.m. load cars and vans, drive hundreds of miles, unload cars and vans, display our beautiful wares, spend 8 or 9 hours on our feet talking till our throats feel like sandpaper, eat lunch on the move, pack up our beautiful (unsold) wares, load cars and vans, drive hundreds of miles, unload cars and vans, and finally flop like dehydrated flat-fish into bed. Oh and then…get up the next day and do it again.

What we encounter along the way can feel genuinely insulting – no-one would tell a plumber how to plumb but they feel perfectly comfortable telling antique traders how to antique.

Traders are knowledgeable and have spent years buying and researching to get the right stock for their field. They  get up in the middle of the night to traipse round draughty fields to find stock and sit up till the small hours, cleaning and researching. Traders know their stock, their bits of history and (for the most part) their prices.

Though you may think a trader is expensive, please, please, please NEVER ask for “The absolute death” – We’re not all “off the telly” and can’t usually afford to discount more than 10% (see paragraph 2).  And no, you can’t find it cheaper on ebay! Good quality antiques sell for good quality prices – even online. I suggest watching a few of these items and seeing where the price ends up before asserting the cheaper online catchphrase…we have missed out on some great items for last minute price wars.

Talking of catchphrases: We know its like Aladdin’s cave, a trip down memory lane, that you are just browsing, that you want to know what yours is worth, that its old fashioned, that no-one wears brooches any more or that your gran used to have one and that if you’d known it was worth that you wouldn’t have thrown yours away. We believe you when you say that you wouldn’t know where to put it or that you have so much you could set up a stall yourself, that you have one just like it (except yours is blue, bigger, and is a completely different shape with handles…oh and its made of glass not ceramic).

The same is true of 90% of customers – and not one of that 90% is afraid to tell us. All day, every day. Antique dealers have 2 loops: an eye loupe to examine their goods and a feedback loop of repeated platitudes.

Platitudes often offered to make conversation (or avoid releasing the wallet-bats) but egg stains and beard dwelling

Someone opened their wallet
Someone opened their wallet

rodents excepted, we don’t bite. By talking to us like people, you may find some hidden gem or new interest BUT remember… after twenty minutes of talking to a customer, for them to walk away is disheartening to say the least. We can’t make you spend your hard earned cash but we are not there for a “nice day out” or for the good of our health.

I hope I have kept to the lighthearted side of this subject but at times it has been hard so apologies if it has sounded a bit ranty. It all boils down to a few salient points: It IS a real job for most  traders, we work hard to price fairly, and we’ve heard it all before. But if you don’t believe me, ask the next time you go to a fair.

Talking of boiling down, I’m off to boil some eggs to get my jumper the right shade of “oueff-de-nil”. Find out where we are selling in 2016 on our Fairs and Markets page or follow us for up to the minute treats

Twitter        Facebook       Pinterest       Instagram

Posted on 1 Comment

Fair Trade…or Tips for Surviving Antiques Fairs…Part 1

IMG_20160214_102218913Its a rough and tumble, rag-tag bag of miscellany and confusion this world of antiques and whether at the lower end of the market or the fine arts end there are many pitfalls and mistakes made from both sides of the counter. So I thought a few tips might be in order. I do want to make it clear that I have been guilty of many of these mistakes myself, so I hope I am speaking from experience.

This is part one and aimed at sellers. Part two for buyers will come tomorrow. So for now, pull up a chair, pour yourself a cuppa and if you’re sitting comfortably…I’ll begin.

SELLERS:

Whether you are a hobbyist or a full time seller, you are still “in retail” therefore standards and customer service shouldn’t be too far removed from the high street. A smart, fresh smelling you is much more appealing than a you with beer gut hanging out of holey trews, rodents in your beard and this morning’s egg stains on your jumper. (I do have a couple of people in mind here)

Fresh from an antique dealer's beard
Fresh from an antique dealer’s beard

A gentle approach and smile works better than a scowl – and yes, customers can be frustrating (buyers please read on) but they are more likely to be persuaded by a friendly face: you can’t force anyone to let the bats out of their wallets but you can suggest how they might!

Presentation and knowledge is key. Junk hunters may not be put off by trays of rusty stuff tipped onto a table but most customers will be. Where appropriate, cleaning stock also helps – no-one wants to go home after a fair to have to soak their hands in bleach; cleaning also helps identify damage and/or provenance.

If you don’t know your stock how do you expect to sell it?

The words “erm, don’t know really” are a massive turn off. Clear pricing and general information will help to draw a customer in. You don’t have to wow them with your knowledge of what colour undercrackers Josiah Wedgwood was wearing when he threw that pot but a general date, range and background will always help (especially if, as we frequently do) you find yourself having to justify your pricing.

Pricing is another game to be sure. Sadly, there is an expected level of discount but know what your policy is and stick to it. If someone wants something enough, they’ll pay without you having to sacrifice your profits for a quick sale. If not, they are probably in the wrong place. Oh and don’t tell a potential customer what you paid for an item. Therein lies madness and unsustainable discounts. Sellers who under (or over) price are damaging to the rest of us.

I could be yours
I could be yours

Get to know your customers, someone who feels they are appreciated will come back and buy again. Talk about other things – the weather, cats, TV. Whatever! but build relationships with them and soon you will have a relationship with their portraits of the Queen (or President Lincoln etc etc)

Of course nothing is guaranteed but we can all help ourselves a little. We all have bad days when it seems no matter what we do, we can’t sell but we always have to keep striving.

 

To find out where we will be selling this year (after I have rehomed the shrews in my beard) check out our fairs and markets page or follow us on:

Twitter        Facebook       Pinterest       Instagram

Posted on Leave a comment

Lens, Roamings, countrymen

Mists of time, or time of mists?
Mists of time, or time of mists?

In the dim and distant past (cue swirling mists of time, tumbleweeds and the shcraaaape, shcraaaape of the Tardis),  about six months ago, those of you who check in regularly may remember my camera lens was involved in a vacuum cleaner hit-and-run incident.

NO?

Well it was. The poor thing suffered major internal injuries and despite some instant remedial care, macro surgery and a weekend visit to the NHS (yes, apparently doctors DO work on Saturdays) slipped on to the great photoshop in the sky. Unlike a person or a dog though it was replaced almost immediately. Since when, other commitments have meant said replacement has sat gathering dust. This week it has finally seen action.

As part of our re-brand a whole new batch of photos was needed. This, was how I whiled away yesterday while Business Partner went a-galivanting to learn all there is to know about underwater archaeology. The lens, you’ll be pleased to know, is excellent. Such definition and clarity even on a macro setting. Things which should sparkle, do. Things

Country Carnelian
Country Carnelian

which should have detail, do. Things which shouldn’t be blurry, aren’t.

This has all happened after a long process getting my all singing, all dancing beast of an Office Management System up and running. Thousands of items of stock have been found, lost, and found again – roaming in herds through the rooms of the house, bleating for the simple comforts of two weeks ago and their comforting dusty corners. (Some are still AWOL but we’ll get the gamekeeper to sort them out next week) but after the mass culling of our online stock, much of which has not survived, we are nearly ready to relaunch.

The aim is to give our online store (Etsy) more of a “country house” feel, though achieving this affair may take a little time. The place was run down for sure, crumbling architecture, tatty furniture and some quite frankly questionable jewellery and ornaments but we are working on bringing it up to National Trust standards. Etsy is a village which may not suit country living all the time, it has become urbanised and swollen but we hope to provide a bijou oasis in a sea of kitsch.

I can hear you wondering if I am going anywhere with this. In all honesty not really, I just wanted to drop in, say hello and reassure all our antique and vintage” countrymen” out there that we will be up and running again soon. New logo, new brand and (eventually) new stock. There are still more photos to be taken, still more dusty relics to be rounded up and still more wellies to be worn but we’re on the road. This site will also be getting a make-over, though quite when I’m not sure.

Oh yes, there may be some complications. We are in fact changing our name. Easy enough on Etsy but not so here (wordpress), or other social media sites, so we’ll keep them the same but make sure its the same theme so no-one gets confused (I am already) so here are the  social media links…if you fancy. Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Keep an eye out though, apparently I promised something about an Instagram account???

Posted on Leave a comment

A long story, made short and then lengthened again

flatback
Flatback to the drawing board

How time flies…and other such bon mots of clicheville. I hadn’t realised it had been over a month since my last post but it has, it seems, and as the minutes, hours, days and weeks headed south for the winter, so my attention was turned to other things.

Anyone in business will understand that if something isn’t working it needs changing. Cue some hefty decision making and sacrifices on our part to try and head in a more profitable direction. Our main aim (that’s business partner and myself) is to be able to find ourselves a bigger place to live. We currently occupy a shoebox. One where the architect’s aim was to capitalise on the ground space available rather than the living conditions. There is a slight similarity with Victorian living for us: cramped conditions and too many ornaments, though thankfully we do have running water and an inside toilet.

We’re not after a jet set lifestyle (though a holiday would be nice), or loose cars and fast women; there are no ambitions towards rock n’ roll hedonism just a second bathroom, a kitchen with more than a metre of worktop space and a workshop for me so I don’t have to sand furniture outside in the rain.

The first part of realising this ambition began in November with our “Posh Fair”. Our relative success has spurred us on and we have now booked for four more this year. We have revamped our stock: collecting together beautiful objets d’art, fabulous jewellery and rare collectables (ouchies for the bank account). To clear out some of the bits n bobs which have been hanging around for so long they are, quite frankly, starting to hurt our eyes with their lingering, mouldering presence, we are also operating as wholesalers – let someone else deal with all the Staffordshire flatbacks, broken snuff boxes and bright copper kettles ( really not one of my favourite things).

This is a sweeping change. In one corner – top quality antiques, jewellery and fine art and in the other, old bits of brass, diamante and poorly executed daubs. Really? who can tell the difference I hear you ask. Well the discerning collector for a start. One who won’t quibble over price, who will expect to pay what an object is worth and who think the E in Ebay stands for evil.

I actually do, even after a week of cell blindness
I actually do, even after a week of cell blindness

As part of this business partner and I have decided to clear out our Etsy store by having a bit of a sale. Most of the stock will be removed and the shop will retail only the best quality (we may even move to Ruby Lane) Its hard work as there is a lot of sorting involved but we’re closing next  Monday for a complete revamp. So yes there is only one week to grab a bargain with a 25% discount.

All this, plus building the ultimate in office management suites (it should have been done in MS Access but quite frankly that sent shivers down my spine so I’ve ended up creating a rather magnificent, if I do say so, beast in Excel), has torn me away from the interwebs – a rent, I must confess , which has not been so difficult to bear.

So please, forgive our absence for a wee while longer. We will be back with a new name, new branding, new stock and of course our world beating Office Management Suite…if I ever get it finished. Now where did I leave that macro?

Follow us on social media: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more on these exciting developments as they happen.

Posted on Leave a comment

ch-ch-chaaaanges!

Mallorca (though this may not be May)
Mallorca (though this may not be May)

Well hello folks and here’s wishing you a great start to the week ahead. We’re back…yes! We’ve dipped our toes into the ocean of high end anti-queues and the waters were warm and balmy – despite howling winds and drizzling rain. Think Mallorca in May, think mulled wine, think soup on a cold winter’s day. What a pleasure to be in lush surroundings, with knowledgeable buyers (mostly), beautiful and genuine antiques (also mostly) and the Pay-Pal card reader almost melting (On Saturday mostly).

I have to admit that both I and business partner were a tad apprehensive about our stock and our chances but this soon faded to be replaced with a glow of contentment. It was not an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination: we worked bloomin’ hard in the weeks leading up to this fair, pulling in some fourteen hour days and there was a great deal of stress and anxiety on both our parts but we feel we have proved a point or two.

Not everything needs to, or should be sold at car-boot prices. There is still a thriving market for quality, beautiful artifacts. Our stock stands better against fine art than pyrex and plastic (largely what we are up against online). Our usual fairs really have become little more than flea markets full of junk. Not that there isn’t a place for that but against that backdrop (and the same applies online) it gets harder to sell good quality pieces without being beaten down financially and emotionally. (see Video Killed the Antiques Dealer  for possible reasons why)

Also coming soon
Also coming soon

So after today, which largely involves a lot of faffing with spreadsheets, re activating our Etsy store and finding a place for our paintings etc we will be taking a day off for a leisurely pub lunch and, armed with a laptop, a year planner and rising self confidence, a peruse through our options. Watch this space for news but there will be some big things coming including an online sale in December and another relaunch for Touchstone Vintage in the new year.

Oh and its my birthday on Saturday so I shall be expecting lots of presents! Please send them C/O Touchstone Vintage. Thank you.

Keep up to date by giving us a thumbs up (or a heart) in cyberspace: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Posted on Leave a comment

You label me, I’ll label you

The tax man cometh
The tax man cometh

Greetings fellow antique enthusiasts and vintage doyens. I have to report some singularly high stress levels not realised since my glory days in youth offending (I mean I worked in youth social care – I was not a young offender). A different kind of stress than that though: who knew that the powers that be, crushed beetles and tiny bits of paper on string could invoke such panic!

The week got off to a fairly bad start with an “admin” day. this largely involved filing three…yes THREE tax returns for her majesty’s revenue and customs (they collect the revenue and their custom is to make life as difficult as possible). Now this isn’t the forum for political rants; but seriously the UK government needs to sort its act out. They are now forcing us to BUY software in order to file a tax return online. One suspects our honoured (sic) chancellor may have shares in these software companies. Upshot being that we have thrown eco-friendly and expediency to the wind and filed a paper form – LATE!

Anyway, the whole affair near drove poor business partner to tears so I suggested she start tagging and labeling all our goodies for the posh fair which is now less than a week away. This she has duly undertaken with nary a moan or whimper: more a sort of death rattle of frustration and tedium. Meanwhile I have ruined two perfectly good tables with substandard proprietary French Polish – I shall be boiling my own beetles from now on. The labeling and pricing continues apace but not fast enough for either of our tastes and there is still a mountain to climb as the days tick-tock-tick-tock away.

All about the money, money, money
All about the money, money, money

Having said all this however, the week has not been entirely unsuccessful. The list of jobs, though still substantial, is shrinking and the world of online retail appears to have woken from a five month hibernation despite dwindling items and caretaking of our Etsy store. Be aware that the shop may fall foul of changing circumstances in the new year so all the vintage goodies we have on offer are basically on a last chance to by option for the next two months. Preparing for posh fair has relieved me of my online SEO and copy tagging duties to some extent and that has proved something of a blessing despite all the paper tags still needing to be written.

Well far be it from me to assign undue labels (a firm believer in live and let live) but HMRC are over priced, over valued and pointless. French polish is best if it comes from France, and price tags are probably best left to Jessie J. I’m off to try and rectify the polish issue,  console business partner as she attempts to write Birmingham 1903 on yet another impossibly small treasury tag, and destabilise the UK tax system.

Find out how I get on by giving us a thumbs up (or a heart) in cyberspace: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Posted on Leave a comment

Doing some busy-work

Not quite this bad...Yet!
Not quite this bad…Yet!

It’s all got a bit out of hand!

So much to do, so little time to do it and the house is piling up with an eclectic mix of goodies which we hope some people will pay some money for. And that, in a nutshell, is the crux of this weird and wonderful life of antiquity. Everything one undertakes is based purely on hope.

With less than three full weeks before we jump into the fine arts end of the market with little to support us but a PayPal card reader and some hastily printed business cards, we are a little flustered but we do think we are well on our way to some small victories. Research indicates that one or two of the pieces we have bought have some SERIOUS fine art collectability – notably a 19th century bronze cherub with cornucopia style single stem vase by Rousseau (a Belgian Sculptor) and a fine art monochrome study by Herbert Sidney who, despite his unassuming name, seems to fetch quite a packet at art auctions.

My French polishing arm is well and truly lubricated too and business partner is threading beads like they are going out of fashion – which, given the number of necklaces we have, we sincerely hope is not the case. In the meantime of course we still have what we call our “BOG fairs” (bloody ‘orrible garbage) and an Etsy store to run; something is on the way to giving. With less and less time to spend online, our Etsy shop will gradually be diminishing in size over the next week as we take items off for Avisford Park. As a by product we have been running a “last chance to buy” promotional thread on Twitter

This campaign has to all intents and purposes been very successful and we have sold some of our Avisford Park stock; can anyone else see the flaw in this otherwise perfect plan?

So, as we prepare for another day doing busy-work and delving into artifacts from a time when jazz ruled the airwaves and before they decided to put cancer in cigarettes (and that might give some idea of the level of cleaning some items need), a time of elegance and hand crafted design – pre plastic and pre formica – here are a few pieces which will be coming offline very soon. Come and join us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it happens

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Port out, starboard home

Booking now
Booking now

It may, or may not depending on your point of view, be evident that after a week or so of daily posts, we have been a bit quiet of late. It’s all to do with timetables. We have so many regular (and irregular) engagements that there are obvious times when my laptop (I call it Saucy because its an HP) seems a million miles away and despite the obvious advantages of m-m-mobile technology the rigors of our schedule keep me at a fingertip distance from my beloved interwebs.

We have weathered some real peaks and troughs this week: after a VERY dry spell we have had some spectacular orders online, not least a bulk order of four items and yesterday (while shopping POSH, and more on that in a minute), both mine and business partners phones were cha-chinging like crazy – we are very pleased to have sold some pearls to the costume department at Warner Bros. studios in Hertfordshire so fingers crossed you’ll be seeing our necklaces in the movies very soon.

Sadly, and thanks to a contretemps between business partner, a vacuum cleaner and my camera (a Nikon D60 for anyone interested) we have given the last rights to my macro lens, but every cloud and all that and a new one is winging its way towards me as we speak. But the main excitement has been our extensive buying for our posh fair (see Antiques Takeaway) We have really stepped up the quality of goods thanks to the Wimborne antiques centre and some very generous traders. However in the pursuit of poshiness, our home – a shoe-box of  Borrower’s proportions – has the look and feel of the basement at the British Museum (or Steptoe’s yard for British sit-com fans)

It has also involved us wading through our online stock to find the creme-de-la-creme ready for the fair; this has been catalogued and will be soon relieved of duty on Etsy so there is plenty of “last chance to buy” going on.  We’re telling Twitter all about it but there are a few choice pieces shown in photographic form below as a sort of tribute to the macro lens. We just hope that aiming posh, with a yen for a 1st class berth with port out, starboard home lands us on the QE2 and not the Titanic.

We’d love to see you on Google+ page, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where you can find out all the last minute bargains before a mass delisting occurs

 

Posted on 2 Comments

Antiques takeaway

Looks posh - is...a four star venue for five star antiques. GULP
Looks posh – is…a four star venue for five star antiques. GULP

The more perceptive of you, or at least those who read “So many pies...” will recall that I talked about putting things back once they had been away; I also mentioned that we have a lot of pies in which to dip our grubby, dust stained fingers. Well the pies just got a whole lot bigger.

Business partner and I received an email inviting us to take part in what can only be classed as a posh antiques fair – Galloway Fairs at Avisford Park near Arundel in West Sussex. We are talking the other end of the spectrum from our usual rickety tables in draughty community centres and sports halls…This is a three day event in a Hilton hotel no less, with gold lettering above our booth and hob-nobbing with TV stars and the generally well-to-do. The human being in me thinks we shouldn’t be pandering to the gentry (believe me in this game the feudal system is alive and kicking) but the pauper in me says lets make lots of money.

This is not so much a pie as a five-bird roast with twenty-seven vegetables, a starter,  fish course, FULL dessert trolley and lemon sorbet between courses – all served in French with full access to a very generous wine cellar. A bit nerve racking as its a jump in the ocean for us (not that we don’t have quality stock, its just that we’ve never tried anything on this scale before).

Anyway at this fair, only the best will do so we will be leaving behind the battered brass and curvy copper, abandoning the broken boxes and crusty curios and as some of our fine arts and collectibules are in our Etsy store, we are sadly soon to be taking them off the interwebs and packing them into carefully lined crates.

The bonus is that some of our “affordable” pieces will get a chance to shine in the meantime and we are really gearing up for Christmas now. Just take a sneaky-peeky at the pics below and you’ll see what I mean. Give us a tickle on our Google+ page, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it is listed and watch this space as business partner loses her hair with stress and I paint myself into a shellac’d corner…